Humans Are Ungrateful

We all want recognition for our achievements; we all yearn for appreciation of our efforts an actions; we all hope to have someone take note our experiences and troubles. We desire the attention and awe that so many give to natural beauties of the world: how remarkable, how magnificent, how inspiring. Words meant for none other than ourselves. We all want someone to be grateful for what we have done and what we have gone through. But you see, humans are ungrateful.

We all sacrifice, for the sake of others around us, what little time we have on earth. When others come to us, in seek of council and guidance, neither hesitation nor a moments reflection are present. Scarcity of resources is a scarce thought herein. We help in the most willing of fashions. Whether a family member, a friend, or a relationship partner, so eager we are to help. Likewise, when others ask a favour of us, to help them with a particular task, we are equally at the ready; yet again, no hesitation or reflection required, no remnants of skepticism or concern to be found, no apathy or unwillingness about. Much of our most precious asset is given to those around us with the utmost eagerness.

But time is not all that we sacrifice for others. Us humans, the struggling species that we are, know full well that we have to sacrifice much more than time.

We also sacrifice, for the sake of others around us, our opportunities. When a person aids us in someway, they encumber opportunity costs of all sorts. Some of them give up time with a loved one, some of them give up an evening with fine literature, and others of them give up their hopes and dreams. All for us, no longer can they pursue what they once desired nor be in the same position as they once were: a non-refundable cost. A permanent change is taken on, like a boat taking on water with no means to repair the damage, all for our well-being. To help another is to undergo permanent loss of opportunity, most certainly.

And it does not end there. Humans sacrifice their most valuable asset, and they also sacrifice their opportunities. A life with no time or opportunity, unfortunate indeed. But humans also sacrifice their peace, an unfortunate circumstance made even more unfortunate.

We sacrifice our mental well-being, our beloved sense equanimity, when we extend our help to others. To help those who are in tough social situations entails that we then have to subject ourselves to that social dysfunction. The negative emotions, the social turmoils, the screaming and yelling. Unenjoyable, plainly speaking. Or to help those who are dealing with substance abuse entails that we have to become frustrated as we watch them fail time and time again before ever being successful at kicking the habit. Even more unenjoyable than the former. Yes, our mental well-being is most certainly sacrificed when we help others.

And for all the sacrifices you give, you feel that they seldom go acknowledged: not your time, not your opportunity costs, nor your mental well-being. Because humans are ungrateful.

Or maybe you’re entitled. Maybe you believe that people owe you so much that you fail to see the acknowledgements they do give you: the small gestures of thanks in noiseless moments, the time they sacrifice for you, the opportunities they give-up for you, or the mental anguish they subject themselves to, all for you. Maybe you want more acknowledgement than they’ve given.

You see, humans are ungrateful, because they are never grateful for the recognition you do give them: they are never satisfied. No amount of acknowledgement is good enough.


Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

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